We may not have seen the last of the gale of defections across the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For now, even though the PDP seems to be giving the APC a bloody nose, it should not relax and laugh; not yet.
Nigeria’s politics can be unpredictable, and as the Hausa man is wont to say, ba a san maci tuwo ba sai miya ya kare (you don’t know who is hungry until the soup is finished). If our political history is anything to derive any lesson from, the PDP should know that it, too, will soon begin to shed some weight. How it manages itself from now till elections is what should concern its managers. And of course they should be on the lookout for a rejuvenated president who may go all out to do more than he did last three years with an eye on reelection.
Beyond its proposed change of name, the PDP must go into deep soul searching if it desires to come back to power. The party should know that what basically toppled it from its high horse was perception and that perception has not gone away.
The PDP was (and still is) seen by the average Nigerian as a party peopled by thieves, not minding whether the APC is any better.
Conversely, the man holding the flag of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, is perceived as honest and incorruptible.
Beyond that, there is also something, something that perhaps only God knows, that is working for Buhari.
Click to read: Buhari Campaign Team, APC and 2019, By Hassan Gimba
Alhaji Shehu Shagari has a similar reputation. Do not forget that till date, he has never been accused of corruption. He is still seen as a man of integrity and honesty. He brought decorum to the office he occupied and was a democrat, respecting the Judiciary and the Legislature.
His only ‘fault’ was that his appointees were corrupt. Is it different now? But because of the Buhari factor, the faults of his appointees are not blamed on him.
With this factor working for the president, the PDP must go beyond mere change of name.
To start with, its frontline gladiators must take a sober reflection and ask themselves some pertinent questions: “Am I doing it for Nigeria?”, “Am I doing it for PDP?”, “Am I the only one who can do it?”, “Is it my ego I am trying to assuage?” and “Can I get one to back, support and guide?”
Among others, the late Wazirin Katsina, Alhaji Isa Kaita, from the North West; late Aliyu Makaman Bidda, from the North Central and late Shettima Ali Monguno from the North East were all immensely qualified to fly the flag of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and preside over the affairs of Nigeria creditably in 1979. They were also senior to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the late Maitama Sule and the late Adamu Ciroma.
But none of them jumped into the ring; instead they joined in the process of scouting for an acceptable leadership for the North and Nigeria. They wanted power for the North, yes, but they wanted whoever the North produced to lead Nigeria.
Each of them could have gone for it, but none of them did. Their love for Nigeria, for the North and for their party subsumed their egos and interests. Can the “Northern seniors” do same now?
The truth is that all those at the forefront of seeking the PDP’s presidential ticket have a problem of public perception. Even though the security agencies and courts of competent jurisdiction had all given them a clean bill, that does not break ice with the ordinary Nigerian, especially the average northerner.
The party has already made the first mistake in its quest to return to power by taking its national chairmanship to the South South, a zone which, together with the South East, it may be argued, may not significantly change their political direction in the immediate future. The South West should have been the zone to produce its chairman so that its fortunes would appreciate there.
The second and must fatal mistake it would commit would be to hoist its presidential flag on one whose public perception is that of a “thief”. Public perception is a force and it is taking the shape of an unwritten law.
Prior to the emergence of Buhari as president, anybody can be PDP’s candidate because the choice before the voter was the choice between six and half a dozen and, therefore, the party with more money to give out carried the day.
Now the president has upped the ante. Despite the economic hardship and security challenges bedeviling the nation, which may make some voters turn their backs on the ruling party, many will still vote for it because they have implicit trust in its candidate. Buhari is not Jonathan, because he has that factor working for him.
Many would rather ‘suffer’ Buhari’s policies than vote in any of those from the PDP angling to take over. They simply do not see integrity in them. They know they held forte before and they saw how they became overnight billionaires in their regime of ‘sharing’. The crowds they see in their campaigns across the country and the hailing of their names should not give them confidence; it isn’t genuine.
If they are serious about resuscitating their party, if they are really concerned about Nigeria, then they should all sit down – those in the party and those coming in – and tell themselves the gospel truth: to revive their party and save (as they say) Nigeria, they must let go of their ego and look for one good candidate to support, one who even his enemy cannot accuse of being a “thief,” or else they should forget it. Next election will not be all about how much money you have, but how much integrity.
The man may not be blessed with cult-like following of a Buhari, but he should be one who can easily be perceived as principled, straightforward and accommodating, plus the added advantage of education, experience and relative youth coupled with a sprinkling of the necessary charisma.
The PDP should play its cards well, pursue the principle of give-and-take, and inculcate internal democracy, party discipline and unity but, above all, members must eschew selfishness and ego-driven ambitions.